Port relishing role of underdog in race for Jubilee city honour

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BOOKMAKERS may consider it a longshot, but those behind a bid to win city status for Goole are still confident of overturning the odds.

The port is one of 25 candidates competing to win the civic honour as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, but those hopes appeared to suffer a blow when bookmaker William Hill listed Goole as a 50/1 outsider alongside the similarly unfancied Corby and Craigavon.

Reading is the odds-on favourite at 10/11, but Goole businessman Howard Duckworth, who started the ball rolling by approaching the town council to make the official bid, said the odds had not dampened his hopes.

Mr Duckworth, who runs the Lowther Hotel in the town, said: “I was working the night shift and I was bored so I decided to go on the internet and see what the criteria were.

“The following morning I called the Department for Media, Culture and Sport and the guy at the other end started laughing. He said all the other towns who have put forward are the same towns who put forward every time and one of the things the Queen is looking for is those towns that would really benefit. He said go for it, put your bid in.

“The underdog is always popular in this country and even if it’s a bit like Withernsea FC having a go at Manchester United, even Manchester United would be rooting for Withernsea in a way.”

Mr Duckworth has also made a personal investment in Goole coming out on top – having placed a £10 bet with Ladbrokes at odds of 40/1.

He added: “Places like Reading would be expected to win, but I’m hoping the Queen will take the view that the town that would benefit the most should win and if that’s the case we are still in with a damn good chance.”

Aside from the welcome publicity and raised profile, there is much at stake.

Mr Duckworth believes Preston was rewarded with £1bn of investment when it was granted city status along with Newport and Newry as part of the Golden Jubilee in 2002.

He said: “That’s a lot of private investment and a lot of jobs. People say Preston is twice as big as Goole – well, I’d take half-a-billion pounds of investment here.”

Goole sees itself as Britain’s premier inland port and one of the most strategically important port towns in the Humber region, with “excellent” road and rail links.

Others believe the bid has already succeeded by raising aspirations in the town.

Goole Renaissance manager Helen Hoult said: “In my view it makes people sit up and think hey, this town’s really having a go. It’s better to try something and fail than not try at all. It’s making people recognise what we’ve got.”

The bid is also being backed by East Riding Council.

And even the bookmakers concede the race is far from over.

Joe Crilly, spokesman for William Hills, said: “Since we opened the betting on the Diamond Jubilee City Status over six months ago, we have seen pretty much one way traffic for Reading – which has been backed in from 4/1 to 10/11. Saying this however, the outsiders have been known to finish strongly in races like this and so all is not necessarily lost for Goole and the other runners.”

The winner is expected to be announced in March.